Convergence: Keynote Speakers


We are excited to introduce the keynote speakers for "Convergence," our 77th Annual Convention and Design Expo. Marion Weiss, FAIA, and Michael Manfredi, FAIA, Eric J. Cesal, Assoc. AIA, and Debbie Millman will be joining us in San Antonio this November.

For the first time, this year we will be hosting four general sessions— two on Friday and two on Saturday. Debbie Millman will speak at the first session on Friday, and Weiss/Manfredi will speak at the second. The Saturday program will feature a session by Eric J. Cesal, as well as the convention's final general session, a panel discussion between all four speakers moderated by Texas Architect editor Aaron Seward.

Registration for the convention will open in July. 

Learn more about our speakers:

Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman – photo by Nebojsa Babic

Named “one of the most influential designers working today” by Graphic Design USA, Debbie Millman is also an author, educator, brand strategist, and host of the podcast "Design Matters." As the founder and host of "Design Matters," the first and longest running podcast about design, Millman has interviewed more than 250 design luminaries and cultural commentators, including Massimo Vignelli, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Pink, Barbara Kruger, Seth Godin, and more. In the 11 years since its inception, the show has garnered over a million downloads per year, a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, and—most recently—the designation by iTunes as one of the best podcasts of 2015.

Millman is the author of six books, including two collections of interviews that have extended the ethos and editorial vision of "Design Matters" to the printed page: "How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer" and "Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits." Both books have been published in over 10 languages. In 2009, Debbie co-founded with Steven Heller the world’s first graduate program in branding at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Now in its sixth year, the program has achieved international acclaim. The inaugural class wrote and designed the Rockport book "Brand Bible: The Complete Guide to Building, Designing and Sustaining Brands." In 2013, the students created branding for the Museum of Modern Art’s retail program, Destination: New York, and the class of 2015 worked to reposition a Kappa Middle School in Harlem.

Millman's written and visual essays have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Print Magazine, Design Observer, and Fast Company. She is the author of two books of illustrated essays: Look Both Ways and Self-Portrait As Your Traitor; the later of which has been awarded a Gold Mobius, a Print Typography Award, and a medal from the Art Directors Club. Her artwork has been exhibited at the Chicago Design Museum, Anderson University, School of Visual Arts, Long Island University, and The Wolfsonion Museum. She has been artist-in-residence at Cranbrook University, Old Dominion University, and Notre Dame University, and has conducted visual storytelling workshops at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, the University of Utah, Hartford University, Albuquerque Academy, and the High School of Art and Design in New York. She has designed wrapping paper and beach towels for One Kings Lane, greeting cards for Mohawk, MOO, and Card-To-Art, playing cards for DeckStarter, notebooks for Shutterstock and Baron Fig, and T-shirts for Within The Fold.

Debbie is the chief marketing officer at Sterling Brands, where she has worked with over 200 of the world’s largest brands, including the redesign of Burger King, merchandising for Star Wars, and the positioning and branding of the No More movement. She is also president emeritus of AIGA, one of five women to hold the position in the organization’s 100-year history, and a past board member and treasurer of the New York Chapter. She is a frequent speaker on design and branding and has moderated Design Yatra in India, presented keynote lectures at Rotman School of Management, Princeton University, Michigan Modern, the Hong Kong Design Association, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Design Thinkers in Toronto, the Festival of Art and Design in Barcelona, Webstock in New Zealand, QVED in Munich and many more. She has been a juror for competitions including Cannes Lions, The Art Directors Club, The Type Directors Club, Fast Company, HOW Magazine, Print Magazine, ID Magazine, AIGA, The Dieline, and more. Currently, Debbie is the editorial and creative director of Print Magazine, the oldest magazine about design in the United States.




Marion Weiss, FAIA, and Michael Manfredi, FAIA, are co-founders of WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/ Urbanism, a multidisciplinary design practice based in New York City.

WEISS/MANFREDI expands the definition of architecture by connecting the territories of architecture, art, infrastructure, and ecology to create new public realms. Projects such as the Olympic Sculpture Park, University of Pennsylvania’s Nanotechnology Center, Barnard College’s Diana Center, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center construct reciprocal relationships between city and nature, architecture and infrastructure. Current projects include a corporate co-location building called “The Bridge” at Cornell Tech’s new campus in New York City, and the US Embassy in New Delhi, India.

Marion Weiss is the Graham Chair Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, and Michael Manfredi is a senior design critic at Harvard University. They have also taught at Princeton, Cornell, and, most recently, Yale as the Eero Saarinen visiting professors. Their work has been exhibited at MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Cooper Hewitt, the Venice Architecture Biennale, and the Louvre. Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi were recently inducted into the National Academy.

WEISS/MANFREDI’s distinct vision has been recognized with the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture, the Architectural League of New York’s “Emerging Voices” Award, the New York AIA Gold Medal, and Harvard’s International V.R. Green Prize in Urban Design. Princeton Architectural Press has published monographs on their work including "WEISS/MANFREDI: Surface/Subsurface," "Site Specific: The Work of WEISS/MANFREDI Architects," and, most recently, "PUBLIC NATURES: Evolutionary Infrastructures."

Eric J. Cesal

Eric J. Cesal

Eric J. Cesal, Assoc. AIA – image courtesy Eric J. Cesal

Eric J. Cesal, Assoc. AIA, is a designer, writer, and noted post-disaster expert, having led on-the-ground reconstruction programs after the Haiti earthquake, the Great East Japan Tsunami, and Superstorm Sandy. Cesal’s formal training is as an architect, with international development, economics and foreign policy among his areas of expertise.

Cesal has been called “Architecture’s First Responder” by The Daily Beast for his work leading Architecture for Humanity’s post-disaster programs from 2010 to 2014. Cesal has been interviewed widely on the subjects of disaster and resilience by publications such as The New Yorker, Architectural Record, Architect Magazine, Foreign Policy Magazine, and Monocle. He has served as a juror for various design awards and frequently lectures globally on disaster reconstruction and resilience.

Cesal is also widely known for his book "Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice," which sought to connect architecture’s chronic economic misfortunes with its failure to prioritize urgent social issues. Cesal is currently working on a new book about how foreign and economic policies of the developed nations incite and aggravate the conditions which lead to catastrophic disasters.

Cesal holds advanced degrees in architecture and construction management, as well as an M.B.A. He is currently a visiting associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he lectures on emerging theories of disaster and resilience.